A simple way to look at this question is to understand two distinct parts of our brain that are responsible for two distinct types of thinking. One part of your brain, known as the Limbic system, makes decisions based on emotions, and focuses on the quickest, easiest way to solve a problem. Another part of your brain, known as the pre-frontal cortex, makes decisions based on logic, and looks for long-term solutions. Let’s move away from discussion of the physical brain structure, and simply refer to what the brain does… it’s functions.
Your Rational BRAIN: Uses logic and is responsible for Planned Behavior; is factually based; considers Long-term consequences; is more “Parent”- like …and is “willing to wait”
Your Emotional BRAIN: Uses feeling/emotions, and is responsible is responsible for Impulsive/compulsive behaviors; considers fulfilling Immediate needs/desires; is more “Child”-like… and wants WHAT IT wants… NOW!
Why we sometimes behave in ways that are not in our own best interest?
Usually, when we are making a decision, or solving a problem, we get input from both parts of our brain (both the Rational BRAIN and Emotional BRAIN make a contribution). Depending on our current mood, or the situation, we may follow the lead of one part of our brain… over the other.
The Emotional BRAIN has a distinct advantage in that it can come up with answers very quickly. Whereas, the Rational BRAIN is more methodical and deliberate, offering answers only after careful consideration of the consequences. So as it turns out, the “first” answer to pop into our head is often offered up by the Emotional BRAIN.
When the Emotional BRAIN dominates the decision making process, we will make decisions based on the quickest and easiest way to solve a problem. Later, after the fact, our Rational BRAIN “kicks in” and asks “Why did I do that… what was I thinking?” Have you ever experienced anything like this? …most of us have.
Which BRAIN are you using to make decisions about EATING?
Of course, some decisions are best left to the Emotional BRAIN: when we are being spontaneous, or need an immediate answer. However, the Emotional BRAIN can also get us into trouble. Sometimes when we make a decision, based on the quickest/easiest solution… we later regret that decision. The challenge is controlling which BRAIN, makes which decisions.
Like any thought or thinking process, the more we think in a certain way, the easier and faster that way of thinking becomes. We form “habitual” ways of thinking. This can be a problem when we are in the “habit” of using our Emotional BRAIN to make decisions that have long-term consequences. If we use our Emotional BRAIN to make too many decisions about what to eat, this can have a long-term impact on our weight.
When we use our Rational BRAIN to make decisions about what to eat, we are likely to get better long-term results. The Rational BRAIN is not interested in the quickest/easiest solution: it is interested in long-term consequences. Using this way of thinking to make decisions about what to eat (like any thought or thinking process); can be developed into a habit.
Developing the HABIT, of making rational eating choices
Practice asking yourself these questions, before you put anything into your mouth:
§ Which BRAIN am I using right now (Rational or Emotional)?
§ Is eating this… in MY best long-term interest?
§ If I eat this… how will I feel an hour from now?
§ How will I feel tomorrow, about the decision I am about to make?
§ How will I feel a year from now, if I continue to make decisions like this?
§ How will you feel TWO years from now, if you continue to make decisions like this?
Practice listening to the Rational BRAIN, before taking action. Practice NOT acting on the “first” idea/solution that pops-up… give careful consideration to these questions before you act.
Watch Your Language: Developing a Healthy Inner Dialogue.
We ALL talk to ourselves: we have an “Internal Dialogue”. We’re continuously asking ourselves questions; making comments to ourselves; talking things through, to make decisions. The language we use, during these “discussions”, may be helpful, or MAY be hurtful. Please, pay attention to the kind of language you use, when you are having an internal discussion.
You cannot win the battle if your enemy has outposts in your head!
If the majority of your Internal Dialogue is negative, and you use strong language, you may be talking yourself into a very negative place. Monitor the language you use; monitor the “tone” of your words; monitor the kind of questions you ask yourself. Some of us have gotten into the HABIT of speaking to ourselves quite harshly… almost in a punishing way. As if, we speak harshly enough to ourselves… that will make things BETTER?
A good rule of thumb is: if you wouldn’t say certain things aloud to your best friend, don’t say them silently to yourself. Listen to the way you talk to yourself… would you talk to your best friend like that?
When you DO talk with your best friend, you are probably supportive, patient and compassionate… why not extend this type of dialogue to yourself? Make every effort to “speak to yourself”, in a way that is supportive and patient… and shows that you care…
Have fun with this… as you monitor, and re-phrase as necessary, notice how differently you feel… when you talk with you.
Dr A – Habits of Health